5 Things You Should Know About Social Media And The Police

Posted on: 27 July 2015

You may consider what you post to your friends on your social media accounts to be protected speech and private. However, you would be wrong. Here are five reasons you should be very careful about what you post, even if you consider yourself a law-abiding citizen.

1. Police scan social media to gather information.

Police officers now have special software to track social media for evidence of various types of criminal activity in real time. This can be used to predict or track gang activity, drug purchasing and dealing, illegal fire arms dealing and more. There even may be a threat rating given to you based on your posts and online purchasing habits.

2. They may know your location.

If you use a smart phone or a tablet with the locator feature for photos turned on, the police would be able to access your location as well.

3. You may have unwittingly friended an undercover officer.

Undercover officers have been creating fake accounts and making friend requests to people they suspect may have some connection to criminal activity. If you or any of your friends accept their requests, they can see your posts and learn a lot about who your friends are, any networking you do, your interests, and what kind of activities you are involved with.

4. What you post on social media can be used against you.

Think about this, if you are in public and you say something incriminating or threatening out loud to another person, and a police officer heard it, this would be admissible in court. The courts have been clear on this point; writing incriminating posts on social media is no different than public speech.

 Just posting things for fun could cause you problems if you ever face charges for anything, such as in these hypothetical examples:

  • Say you are charged with domestic violence or stalking someone. Your attorney is requesting a smaller bail for you, arguing that you are a model citizen, but the prosecution has your embarrassing posts that demonstrate your misogynic or misandric traits and opinions.
  • You have drug charges pending, and the police find messages and pictures that indicate your involvement in drug activities.
  • You are on parole or probation as a sex offender and having an account just by itself would violate its terms.
  • You are charged with animal cruelty, and the police find photos and posts that highlight some callous behavior or indifference to the suffering of animals.
  • You post pictures and comments about drinking at a bar or a party. Soon after this, you were driving and involved in a car accident and someone was seriously injured or died as a result.

5. If you try to remove posts after being charged with something, you could get In more trouble.

It is possible that once you are charged with a crime, deleting posts or closing a social media account could be considered obstructing justice, or  "spoilation" which is which is intentionally tampering with, destroying, or hiding evidence.

Police may already have recorded your posts for use in a case against you so it may not help to delete them anyway. If your case also becomes a civil matter, such as a lawsuit for wrongful death or personal injury, you could face further penalties.

The wisest thing you can do is to consider everything you post as public communication and be careful to create a good persona or image on your social network site. If you are facing criminal charges and/or a civil action you should consult an attorney from a place like Druyon Law as soon as possible and be sure to inform them about what's on your social media accounts.